One of the "blogging Bishops" at Lambeth, Bishop Alan Wilson of Buckingham, has a great post today about what Anglicans think about the authority of the Bible:
- I have not met anyone here of whom it would be true to say simply that they do not believe in the Authority of Scripture. How we believe in what kind of authority are other questions. Here are some indications of the ways a group of us form five continents, in Indaba, saw our distinctively Anglican use of the Bible. How are we, as Anglicans, “formed by Scrpture?”
- The Word of God is a person, not a text. In Islam, for example, the Qu’ran is a privileged untransalteable text. For Christians Scrupture has authority as it is interprteed and applied, not as a simple absolute. We are very resistant to idolatry; idolatry of the book, idolatry of reason, idolatry of tradition. All three are resources for the Spirit, not totems or weapons against other children of God. We need to interpret the Scriptures through the icon of Christ.
- We take the text very seriously in itself, in all of its subtlety, richness, occasional divergence and uncertainty. We begin with what it means in its own terms and historical context. So we establish the Sctipture we transmit and guard, distinguishing it carefully from our response. For example, in the Early Church women were to wear hats and be submissive so as to win their husbands for Christ. How would a woman in any of our various contemporary cultures behave so as to reflect Christ to her spouse and wn them? Absolutizing wearing hats in itself is a superficial and inadequately contextualized response to this text.
- We then go on to take an honest view of our real world circumstances. Scripture speaks directly to each person, as who they are and where they are. Therefore we need to be aware of our own cultural spectacles as we read, before we try and inculturate any meaning we believe we can derive from the text. The Holy Spirit inspires a process of recognition and sympathetic resonance, by which Christ speaks to us where we are, and as the people we are.
- Our Church community and communion that hold us accountable to the Scriptures, as this process is prayerfully pursued in fellowship. If you want to know what we believe, and how the Scriptures form us, worship with us.
- There has tendency in the post-enlightenment West to erect Reason into an absolute, or even idol. Even Conservative Anglicans sometimes mine the scriptures for soundbites or notions, then extract them from their context and absolutize them in a way that can even compromise basic principles of Christian discipleship. Sometimes (as in prosperity theology) one element is isolated against others in a distorting way. It is the whole counsel of God we must seek, distinguishing clearly between the use of our mind as a tool for discernment, into which God can speak, and any tendency to engage in merely rationalist discourse, Conservative or Liberal.
Read it all here.